In Fiji, Nakanacagi Cave is the last known maternity roost for the endangered Fijian Free-tailed Bat (Chaerephon bregullae)

04.28.21

Fijian Free-tailed Bat survival relies on last known maternity roost

In Fiji, Nakanacagi Cave is the last known maternity roost for the endangered Fijian Free-tailed Bat (Chaerephon bregullae). The species is only known to occur on a few South Pacific islands in Fiji and Vanuatu, and population numbers are low and decreasing. Researchers have found evidence the species used to occur in a number of other caves in Fiji and Tonga—but the bats are no longer there.

That’s why Nakanacagi Cave—which is located on Fiji’s second largest island of Vanua Levu—is crucial for the survival of this species. Bat Conservation International is collaborating with partners, including the National Trust of Fiji, Nature Fiji, and the Rainforest Trust, to protect Nakanacagi Cave and surrounding land, including creating the first ever protected area for bats on Fiji.

Human disturbances near the cave previously included hunting of the bats for food, as well as habitat destruction and degradation (through mining, logging, burning, and intensive agriculture). Severe weather and recent cyclones have also had a devastating impact on the area, including nearby Nakanacagi Village, which experienced significant flooding, with damage to buildings, crops, and food sources.

Not much is known about the Fijian Free-tailed Bat, but BCI Student Scholar, Women in Science Award Winner, and University of Adelaide Ph.D. student Siteri Tikoca is on a mission to learn more. While travel has been restricted due to the COVID pandemic, she recently hosted a webinar on the bats, and she hopes to coordinate the first round of on the ground research very soon. Tikoca aims to learn about the bats’ habitat, as well as their diet, seasonal changes in diet, population health, and historical relatedness  between bats in Fiji and Vanuatu.

Tikoca’s vital research will fill knowledge gaps to inform future conservation planning, enhancing the impact of collaborative projects such as the work to protect Nakanacagi Cave and nearby areas.